Wednesday, October 2, 2013

ADHD Awareness Month - October 2013

According to the good folks at ADDitude Magazine, it's ADHD Awareness Month.

Yes, that's a thing.

In fact, there is even a website called Global ADHD Awareness Month - 2013.  According to the photo on this website, I am a poster child for this month-long celebration:

No, that isn't actually me, but this lady is definitely my doppleganger.  Spooky.

ADHD Awareness Month actually is a really good thing.

Sure, it's no match for its counterpart, Breast Cancer Awareness Month - also October - but as part of its campaign for ADHD Awareness Month, ADDitude is promoting ADHD myth-busting.  As a fan of Discovery Channel's MythBusters, I can safely assure you that ADHD myth-busting will not include any explosives.


But I would like to pick up the ADHD myth-busting torch and tell you a few things about my ADD (no hyperactivity as far as I can tell, unless drinking too much coffee and staring into space is considered hyperactive, in which case, yes, I'm hyperactive).

What do you think of when you picture someone, especially a child, with ADD or ADHD?

I can think of several of my classroom peers from middle and high school that fit the stereotype: fidgety, loud, boundary issues, constant yammering and interrupting, and generally a nuisance.  When I tell people that I was diagnosed, most folks are surprised.  Then a curious thing occurs: people start emailing and texting me with suspicions that they - or their child or partner - might have ADD.

I discovered my ADD through my husband.  If you're new to the blog then here's a big piece of my life you should know: my husband, a successful college administrator who has 2 master's degrees and a PhD has wicked ADD.  One night we were chatting on the couch after the kids went to bed and he turned to me and wondered, "You know, you might have what I have."

Considering I don't present like my husband, who is pretty classic ADHD, this was fascinating and a real possible answer to some of my nagging frustrations: poor sleep habits since age 12, need of background white noise or complete silence to concentrate, hyperfocus on details without seeing the big picture, forgetfulness, trouble with punctuality, misplacing items in the house, clutter on every flat surface, and trouble completing projects.

I scheduled a diagnostic assessment and guess what?  I passed with flying colors!!

But here's the thing: I didn't realize I struggled with ADD until my husband said something to me at age 42.  I had been coping and self-medicating with caffeine for about oh, my entire adult life.

So let me do some myth-busting using my life as an example.

Myth: People with ADD are lazy.
Truth:  I have held down many jobs and have been highly recommended by colleagues.

Myth:  People with ADD are not smart.
Truth:  I am working on my second graduate degree and have always been top in my class.

I want to bitch slap the person who created this.

Myth:  ADD and ADHD are just excuses for bad behavior.
Truth:  ADD and ADHD are bona fide medical disorders recognized by the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Education.  ADHD is listed in the American Psychiatric Society's DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).

If you suspect that you might have some of the symptoms that I described, don't feel ashamed and don't put off talking to your doctor or seeking an assessment.  Although I don't take medication, just being aware of my limitations has helped me feel less frustrated with myself and to employ strategies and use tools to help me be productive and successful.

Check out the ADDitude Printables on ADHD/ADD for information or go to the Global ADHD Awareness Month - 2013 website.  Both websites offer great fact sheets, self-assessments, and forums in which you can ask questions or interact with physicians, psychologists, and regular folk who might look a lot like you.